Drinkbox Vita Collection Review: Portable and Refreshing
These days, reliable and steady exclusives and titles for the PS Vita are hard to come by. With first-party support for the device all but cutoff by Sony, the Vita has established itself in the following years as a niche device, and along with it plenty of titles that may not carry the appeal of your average Uncharted or Horizon: Zero Dawn, but instead offer some unique and unusual experiences.
Some of those very experiences have been crafted by developer Drinkbox Studios, one of the Vita’s strongest supporters and a studio that have created some titles that not only have established the developer’s identity for quirky, out-of-the-box creativity, but have also become some of the Vita’s strongest games in recent years.
That case can be made with the Drinkbox Vita Collection, a three-game bundle that includes the majority of the studio’s work and three of the Vita’s most unique titles: Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, Guacamelee!, and Severed.
As a bundle for $24.99, the Drinkbox Vita Collection presents an affordable and varied collection of games that not only showcases the studio’s diverse range of work, but in many ways also presents an intriguing look at the evolution of a studio (and to an extent, the Vita itself) over the course of nearly five years.
The first title in the collection, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, is both the earliest released from Drinkbox Studios and among the first of the PS Vita’s launch lineup. As a mix between experiences like Katamari Damacy and numerous puzzle platformers, it’s easy to see how Drinkbox got their start with the colorful and quirky Mutant Blobs Attack, which still remains a fresh experience even five years after its initial release.
Taking the form of an amorphous blob, Mutant Blobs Attack offers up over 30 levels of platforming where players gobble up everything in sight and grow to bigger shapes. As the blob increases in size, so too does the player get the chance to snatch up bigger and bigger objects while being able to access new areas, thanks to a growing stable of new abilities.
While its influences are easy to see from the likes of Katamari Damacy and Super Mario Bros., Mutant Blobs Attack nevertheless offers an intriguing look at the early days of the Vita and Drinkbox, while still sufficiently being a charming and colorful romp thanks to its fast-paced platforming action.
The next title in the collection (and my personal favorite) is the equally colorful romp Guacamelee!, albeit taking on a very different type of genre and a very different type of setting for Drinkbox’s next adventure.
A platforming title inspired by Castlevania and Metroid, Guacamelee! infuses that style of gameplay with a wild world and story inspired by Mexican culture. Taking on the role of Juan, a luchador wrestler imbued with various powers and abilities, Guacamelee! has players exploring large environments, solving puzzles, and battling enemies with a slew of wrestling-inspired moves while searching for the daughter of El Presidente (and the love of his love).
From its striking visuals and inspired design, Guacamelee! is perhaps the breakout title for Drinkbox Studios with its unique blend of Metroidvania gameplay and its luchador hero that help it to stand out (it was even among one of the first titles I had played after purchasing my own Vita).
Though several editions of the game have followed on other consoles (such as the Gold Edition on PC and the Super Turbo Championship Edition on current-gem consoles and elsewhere), the original version of the game packaged with the Drinkbox Vita Collection shows that Guacamelee! still holds up with a solid foundation of gameplay, a fun, engaging world, and a bevy of creative powers that make it an enjoyable (though brief) adventure.
The final game in the collection is also the studio’s most recent, with Severed being the third (and most markedly different) component of the Drinkbox Vita Collection. In exchange for the lighter, more whimsical tone of both Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee!, Severed instead offers a radically different, much darker vision from Drinkbox Studios.
Where Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee! offered platforming-focused adventures, Severed instead presents a first-person dungeon crawler experience and avid use of the Vita’s touchpad with plenty of action that will be familiar to players of games like Fruit Ninja. Of course, comparing Severed to Fruit Ninja is not a knock against the game, as the title is far darker and twisted than you could ever expect from its bright, Guacamelee!-esque graphics.
Severed puts players into the role of Sasha, a young woman that awakens inside of a dark, twisted world with her arm severed at the shoulder and her family missing and torn apart. Armed with a mystical sword and a growing roster of powers, Severed‘s touchscreen-focused action has players slicing and dicing through enemies in strategic ways and exploiting their weaknesses for maximum damage.
Like Guacamelee! before it, Severed is immediately appealing with its striking visuals, and in contrast to the other two titles serves as perhaps the most unique entry in the Drinkbox Vita Collection, though not without faults. Its hack ‘n slash touchscreen combat does become repetitive well into the roughly five/six-hour experience, though its dark vision and twisted world make it an enticing offer inside of the collection.
While the Vita was initially home to series like Uncharted and Killzone that Sony used to position the handheld as a true “console experience on the go,” these days the variety of more niche and independent titles have been the ones to truly define it.
In particular, the Drinkbox Vita Collection should be one of the clearest reminders of one of the console’s biggest champions, with each of the three games included being among the best that the Vita has had on offer since its beginning. While lacking in features tailored specifically for the collection like remastered graphics or additional bonus content — each of the games being their original Vita versions — they are still offer a great insight into one of the Vita’s most dedicated studios, and the Drinkbox Vita Collection should be a great place to start for a great (if underappreciated) handheld.